I struggle with the endless dilemma of being a perfectionist, but also realising perfection is not possible, especially given the busy nature of life and how appealing watching Netflix is after a hard day at work. This is the reason this website has been largely abandoned – a compulsive need to procrastinate from writing or publishing until I’ve convinced myself I’ve got the time to ‘do it right’.
I’ve recently interrupted my PhD studies for reasons completely uninteresting and unrelated to this post, but this has suddenly freed up much more of my time. And I am trying to implement a new mentality in life – perfection is impossible, things only need to be good enough.
With this in mind, here is a good enough recipe for chilli oil noodles. This is one of my favourite recipes to cook – the sauce is a balance of spicy, sweet and sour, the thinly sliced bavette steak adds a meatiness to the dish, whilst the shiitake mushrooms bring an earthy flavour. Plus it takes less than twenty minutes from fridge to mouth, which is ideal for a mid-week meal.
This recipe would undoubtedly benefit from some thick homemade noodles, but I think packaged noodles work very well, my favourite being ones which are simply called ‘Taiwanese noodles’ in my local Chinese supermarket (they are flat, with curly edges which collect the sauce well). For the chilli oil I use either a homemade oil* or the Laoganma brand crispy chilli oil. Both work well – the former is fresher and lighter, whereas the Laoganma has a more pungent, slightly nuttier taste.
* I used The Woks Of Life recipe, but substituted Sichuan crushed chilli flakes with Korean chilli flakes, simply because I could not find the former.
- Chilli oil, 2 tablespoons
- Soy sauce, 1 tablespoon
- Black vinegar, 1 teaspoon
- Sugar, 1 teaspoon
- Ground cumin, 1 teaspoon
- Ginger, 1 thick slice
- Garlic, 2 cloves
- Fresh chillies, as many as you like
- Bavette steak, enough for 2 people
- Shiitake mushrooms, 5-6
- Chinese leaf cabbage, 1/3
- Spring onions, 2
- Cooking oil, 2 tablespoons
- Noodles, cooked according to packet instructions.
How to make:
Prepare your sauce by mixing together the chilli oil, soy sauce, black vinegar, sugar and ground cumin. You can adjust the quantities if you prefer a sweeter/more acidic flavour.
Cut the mushrooms and roughly chop the cabbage. Slice the steak into thin strips, against the grain! Set aside.
Slice the spring onions into thin slices. Cut the ginger, garlic and fresh chilies – you can cut these finely, but I prefer to bash them up in a pestle and mortar as the pounding action releases more tasty oils.
Heat the cooking oil in a wok over high heat, and add the garlic/ginger/chilli combo, plus the spring onions. Stir fry for a minute or two, then add the mushrooms and cabbage. Cook until the cabbage is nearly wilted then add a big splash of the rice wine, toss, and move the food up the side of the wok so it is no longer on the heat.
Add the bavette steak and stir fry for a minute or two – keep the meat moving constantly – you want it browned all over but red inside. When the meat looks browned all over, pour in your sauce and mix everything together.
Add your cooked noodles to the wok and toss everything well. Serve immediately with more chilli oil and some chopped coriander.